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Nick Emerson: Tips for editors

Meet Nick, he’s an editor. He’s worked on films such as Lady Macbeth (2016), Starred up (2013), Daphne (2017). But, how did it all begin?

I have had a passion for film since I was about 14 years old. I saw the film TAXI DRIVER by Martin Scorsese and was blown away. It was the first time that I was aware that someone was in control of the picture, a director or artist. It was a bit of lightning bolt for me, I realised that maybe I could get a job making films. 

What inspired you to get into the film industry?

I had always been interested in films but after TAXI DRIVER I became very focused that it would be something I would actively seek out. Realising now that there were directors behind the magic of it all I began to study everything I watched. The great thing about Scorsese as a starting point is that when you read about him or listen to him speak it opens up a whole new world of cinema, he is such an encyclopaedia. So I looked up everything he talked about, French New Wave, Soviet Cinema, Bresson, Antonini, Bergman and watched as much as I could.

How did your career start out?

I got onto a trainee media course in Belfast when I was 18. I was lucky to get a placement as a runner on a short film that was being made. I pestered the producer of the film to let me sit in on the edit. I originally wanted to be a cinematographer but after sitting in on the edit I changed my mind. I found it fascinating. I began working at the production company – it was actually a community video collective in Belfast – sweeping floors and making tea but also getting as much time on the editing equipment as I could. To cut the story short – I ended up moving onto news editing and then from there to documentaries. I spent ten years working on a documentary and factual TV before being offered my first feature film CHERRYBOMB. I had been lucky enough to cut the directors first short film and they thankfully asked me back!

How would you advise others to get into editing?

Try and get as much practical experience. The software is cheap now – if not free – shoot something on your phone and cut it together. Also watch as many films as you can, it’s a language and the best way to learn it is watch and watch all kinds of films. Practically you can start out the Assistant Editor route. Try and get a position in a cutting room as a trainee or editorial runner and work your way up. You will learn so much being in a working cutting room. It’s important to also form relationships with filmmakers early on – people who might make the jump from short films to features and take you with them.

What genres have you worked in mostly?

I have been really lucky to work on all sorts of films. This was a very conscious decision to keep it varied. I generally try to pick my next film based on it being very different to the last. You want to keep it fresh and challenge yourself. If you are not learning on each new job there is something wrong I think.

Could you tell us a bit about your latest projects?

I am currently finishing up Neil Jordan’s new thriller called THE WIDOW starring Isabelle Huppert and Chloë Grace Moretz.

What is it that you love about your job?

I just love making films. It’s very creative and as an editor, you have the ability to put your stamp on something. You are the person who spends the most time with the director across a production so you are heavily involved. The collaborative process too, working with lots of people to make something we all can be proud of is very satisfying.

What’s your favourite memory/role from your career so far?

There are so many but a few highlights. A screening of a film I cut called GOOD VIBRATIONS at a film festival – the whole audience jumped up and cheered and clapped at a certain point in the film which was very special. Working with Neil Jordan and Isabelle Huppert on THE WIDOW. I had been an admirer of both their work for so many years and to find myself working with them both is extraordinary. Watching LADY MACBETH at the Sundance Film Festival with my friends and collaborators Will Odlroyd and Ari Wegner. None of us had seen the film in a while so it was wonderful to watch it together in that setting with so many people

 Do you have any editing tips you can give budding editors?

In terms of dialogue scenes…never cut for a line! Cut for a reaction. Sometimes the temptation is to cut to actors for their delivery of a certain line…it’s usually more interesting to see whats going on when a character is listening.

Feeling inspired?

If you’re a budding editor, kickstart your career today by applying for our courses as an editor. Click here!

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